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If you have type 2 diabetes, changing the time of your biggest meal might help you shed pounds.

Zee Krstic
April 26, 2018

One of the questions that usually crops up when health professionals discuss best practices for weight loss is, “Should I eat breakfast in the morning?” The answer seems to be a resounding yes, and new research shows breakfast could be the key to weight loss for type 2 diabetics.

Tel Aviv University's Dr. Daniela Jakubowicz presented her research in Chicago at the Endocrine Society's annual ENDO convention earlier this March. Dr. Jakubowicz and a team of researchers found that a well-rounded and substantial breakfast—followed by a portion-controlled lunch and smaller dinner—helped diabetics lose weight and keep it off. Their work was recently published in Diabetes Care, a medical journal sponsored by the American Diabetes Association.

“This study shows that, in obese insulin-treated type 2 diabetes patients, a diet with three meals per day, consisting of a big breakfast, average lunch and small dinner, had many rapid and positive effects compared to the traditional diet with six small meals evenly distributed throughout the day: better weight loss, less hunger and better diabetes control while using less insulin," Dr. Jakubowicz said in a press release.

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The research showed that when type 2 diabetics eat can influence over their body's metabolism—for example, eating a slice of bread in the morning affects the body's glucose response differently than having a slice of bread right before bed.

11 women and 18 men who suffer from type 2 diabetes and use insulin were studied. Participants ate a 1,600-calorie diet. One group ate 50 percent or more of their daily intake at breakfast and spread out the rest of their calories between a smaller lunch and dinner. The other group consumed their calories in six smaller meals throughout the day—a popular tactic doctors recommend for type 2 diabetic dieters.

Photo: Jamie Vespa

For three months, researchers noted the dieters' overall glucose levels and any fluctuations during the first two weeks of the study—and again at the end of the period. Those who ate dense, nutrient-rich breakfasts lost upwards of 11 pounds during the study, while those who ate even meals actually gained a pound or more.

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The two groups' fasting glucose levels (read: blood sugar levels before eating a meal) also showed a trend: The big breakfast eaters saw their glucose levels drop by more than 50 points to an average of 107, while those who did not averaged a 20-point drop to 141. Regular glucose levels dropped from 167 to 129 for those who took the time to eat a substantial breakfast, too.

The researchers noted that breakfast could influence weight loss by reducing the need for type 2 diabetes patients to reach for insulin throughout the day, which can cause weight gain on its own.

The bottom line: This is a small study, and more research needs to be done, so take these findings with a (figurative) grain of salt. But taking the time to eat a substantial breakfast—even one that can be prepared in advance—and smaller, less calorie-dense meals throughout the day—might be the key to managing type 2 diabetes more effectively in the long run.

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